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The Funeral Parlour
Karen Gai Dean

Sing! Sing! to my melancholic necrophiliac baby:

Me in mobile love-nest, a runaway, caught by the cops fucking a corpse, moaning in throes of ecstasy, "oh, if this hearse is a rockin', DON'T BOTHER KNOCKIN'" [Me lead away in handcuffs, past the strategically-placed bumper sticker, "To all you virgin cadavers out there: THANKS FOR NUTHIN'"]: "Officers," I demur, words made (pungent by putrid) flesh, "what gave me away?"

This is an elaborate over-identification. Be honest: in a slasher film, I'd be the chick who lived to the sequel. Safe, safe, and depleted. But through the days, the tired streets, the careful lies, the narcissistic turns, the imagined scars, the filth, the dishes, the adjectives -- lived a roamed aslinking panther, she she -- who'd walk and touch and bristle (if panthers do). . .

Having lost a battle with language, body-in-pieces, fragments of fantasy, I retreat to that private place, between raw lid and eyeball, that own private glide of fluid: I lay back, head heavy with air and heaviness, and the sun rippled its red-golden tentacles, its spreading light flashes, into that space. To the field of my past life, and I bled into that space.

self diagnosis

Sounds carried me on. I couldn't have been more where I was if I was actually there. Was babbling, "my knife, my kiss." (All I had left, all I was.) Touched and kissed. Inside, inside, I know what is inside.

I don't trust anyone now.

"Mood is elevated out of keeping with the individual's circumstances and may vary from carefree joviality to uncontrollable excitement. Elation is accompanied by overactivity, pressure of speech, and a decreased need for sleep. Normal social inhibitions are lost, attention cannot be sustained, and there is marked distractability."

Because it can't be her. Because it must be me. Because it can't be happening again.

"Perceptual disorders may occur, such as the appreciation of colours as especially vivid (and usually beautiful), a preoccupation with fine details of surfaces or textures, and subjective hyperacusis. The individual may embark on extravagant and impractical schemes, spend money recklessly, or become aggressive, amorous, or facetious in inappropriate circumstances. In some episodes the mood is irritable and suspicious rather than elated."

And she was so beautiful; it can't have been her.

not intended for use as a substitute for sleep

I searched for the pen. The pen. Only able to love objects, I searched for the pen which would control my handwriting, tell me what to say. The pen which would record the plots hatching around me, the encroaching unfolding fear, the falling dominoes of words on a page. (Notice, friend, that this is fiction. Pure fiction. Do not add to diagnosis, do not add anything. I'll notice if you do. Keep your hands in your pockets, take a quick look around -- then scram.)

What could I not accept, could not let go of, she asked. I was hardly about to start dabbling in that murky little area. The subtexts reek, and there's a few dead animals mixed in if the smell is an indication. Here we have eleven (count 'em, eleven!) individual subtexts, if you will, each with their own personalities. Ask nicely, and they'll come out and play, or talk in funny voices (except "Baby", who is pre-verbal.) Sometimes when we're bored, we take them out, dress them, apply make-up, brush their hair, then push them around. It can be entertaining if you've a taste for it. A solid blow can destabilize them, so when they're lain in the boxes and re-placed in the drawer, you can never tell who'll be on top. Which subtext will attain precedence. Which must needs gather most must.

But today was languid -- a hot, tooth-picking reclining day for the mind -- and I hadn't the energy to listen for plots or toy with subtexts. I exited my head and rearranged paper, secreted notes to myself among clothes, among books, between other notes. The mind's work is never done, at least while you wait for the codeine to kick in.

When I've sufficed moving paper, I should cover the mirrors. That handsome drawn face is getting a little too handsome for my liking. The hanging eyes. The bulging frown. The marked skin. Stop, girl, you're getting to look like a heroin ad. Ooh, baby. Stop. I'm turning into my own taste. Remind self that vanity is a Mortal One.

Who didn't look beautiful? What didn't taste sublime? What action not ugly? What pain not sharp? Even now, waiting, waiting, for the calmatives to work, that whirring click of sharp light in my brain, everything hits my eyes too clearly in the dark room.

Shimmering, shimmering fingertips -- I still have my hands, I say, I still have my skin. To think, to think, that your skin covers your body, entrails viscerals bones blood covered by skin, skin you can touch, skin that can touch, printed soft pads, skim down walls, along floors, ridged with dust, prints on the window, touch skin, touch pads. I cried as I realized this, this thing, like this, that I've never thought before.

It's a mild episode, and not psychotic. "I'm delusional, not deranged," I wanted to say. But didn't. Some people don't get these jokes, or even let you claim they are. The illusions we foster, let fester, in others, to have them scalpel out our own. Served with a smirk, a plated retro nouvelle cuisine: a carved illusion, a little fruit coulis, et voila! consume with relish. And for dessert, madame will enjoy a dish of flummery. Having eaten my surfeit, I resolve to refrain from human food, and return to... my precious paper. Compose overdue missive: "To you," I dictate. "I'm sorry if I've offended. I'm sorry if I haven't. Love, Me." Mulched by the Incident in the Garden (see below), too petrified to speak, I write to myself the only things I know. Hold tight, precious ones:

  • Drugs, in sufficient doses, can calm, and this is always a good thing.
  • No matter what condition you're in, you must remember your dole form.
  • Practise self-affirmation -- you must retain a sense of humour.
  • People are beautiful and frightening and because they invariably cause pain must be avoided.
  • Stomach pain (even if undiagnosed) is probably insufficient to justify heroin addiction and/or suicide.
  • Flummery never tastes good.
  • Orgasm is not a little death.
  • Nobody wants to read your poems.

"You could have taken anything from me -- save my roses!" (I say, alluding wildly, an enraged and bereft Beast)

Sweet, you have lied so much, but your skin is intact. You sleep the soft sleep of held skin, your voice softly muttering, words which flay my body. Your words, my body. My body, your body: stripped, intact. Sleep of the assassin.

For, on a brief excursion from my cave, I happenstanced upon a woman. Such a handsome boy, she fucked with my electricals, made me feel nauseous, feel dead, feel alive. She found my knife; she teased and she shivved. She severed my roses and gave them to my wife, and the only things left in my garden bed were spine-imprinted petals, strewn and discarded, and I heard their shrieking as they decamped.

and yet, Joan of Arc must love arranging this girl

Bottles break, clothes torn, revert to teenhood, hairstyles ripped asunder, skin breaks (after bottles), eyes flash blue beacons from tears, lightning strikes, I strike back.

When it ends, you move from that metaphor of little death -- of fluid, of her, of her fluid, of glistening skin, her pores pushed into my pores -- to the increments of literal death, of never again: never fuck again, never touch again, never speak again. Killed wills and funeral plans. Now that death will be alone, before I die. Marked retreat, repeats -- back and back and you die.

My hands are small, but wiry and strong. Took one end of a poem, wrapped it around palm, took the other end, wrapped around other palm, pulled tighter, tighter ~

and came to in a pink fuzzy vision of fantasy, the camera pulls slowly from my face, and I shake my head and know she is still alive.

If a body keep a body -- keep my body, keep my flesh whole and clean. I thought she would, and her body has moved, and my corpse will lie alone, silent save for buzzing.

How soon her body found a body. The body of work, to have and to hold, how soon. My body lies alone, eyes to ceiling. Unblinking body, I lie alone.


the lesbian avenger

What attractions take place, what desire to be (un)satisfied, is this revenge? A woman as beautiful as handsome, a pick up feminist-to-feminist. Thief-boy returns, buffed, tattooed, wearing a studded collar, dressed in the body of another. Dragged to display poor dancing skills on the podium, a cave-dweller seduces her caveman. She wants everything fast: "What are your dreams? . . . Too slow! I want passion!" After three hours "I love you." One of my relationships with a finger tenderly massaging the fast-forward button.

Stagger-fondle-frottage. A slash and some tears and I can't proceed and it's time to go home.

bride of Frankenstein

"I don't want that any more." She smiled and started to speak, so I interrupted, "give yourself to no-one save the one you can't have, I say, for we have to keep our standards." She looked down and knew, she looked up and didn't know. To salvage the moment I changed tack. "I don't want to have sex any more (am not a lesbian any more am not a woman any more). It would be the same actions the same repetitions the same sex same body same me. I'm wanting everything and everything to be different." She looked down again; I continued. "Of course, it's entirely possible that I have been over-theorizing the fact that I can't pick up, but that's what separates us from the animals -- the capacity to theorize an inability to successfully pick up." She didn't look up smiled at the corner of her eyes sadly uttered the name I go by, said "You make me laugh."

She made me want to speak again.

Having been rewired (by her electrical system, by hormones, by chocolate), being another gender, being not that person who would love-touch-fuck, I was a different person when I spoke to her. A new body stitched together, words in sentences, subject-verb-object.

It was enough to stand near her hear her speak words as she sailed across my body, flapping cape casting a shadow across me and glinting (I saw her flying wax wings to sun) I knew I would never touch her

she did not till soil sow seeds water prune; she said, "tend to your garden (death)bed, you lazy woman"

(wreaths and arrangements.) there is soil but there are gardens. fragrance and nectar. petals and flower-skin. love, my own fingers, my cunt.

[Stage notes: Advancing through the cocktail hour, Mortophile reclines, mouths "Habibi," finger slowly rims martini glass. You hear a noise in the background you've never heard, realize it has subtended every thing that has gone before, has soundtracked every thought-word-action. A subliminal sound has been the only true movement in your life, cause and effect events overplaying and distracting from the one pain that will replay until you find the switch and stop the noise. Is it the same woman? Are you the same woman? Could any one tell you apart? But the noise remains as inertia, and you'd best accept that these productions will continue to be mounted -- better make them worthy, find an inspired setting, a glamorous cast {bums on seats, dear!}, an impressive scenario and "authentic" dialogue through which to vibrate your fruity ringing tones.]

When "her" voice went through me she had retired, chatelaine to heavenly mansion, and I could feel the sun warm through the soil above. Roses flowering, roses left by my loves, thorns prick-cling to shroud, gathered to me. Shake earth from shroud, and step; step, step from soil, and away. Blink earth from lashes (step) and dust from shroud. And I have gone ~

(For Tony)

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